Our team had slated tournaments throughout the winter with my first time playing in Richmond BC. I immediately zoned in on my drills and obtaining practice ice as much as possible. I had also taken on the role as lead on the team, so my first two rocks were extremely important in setting up successful ends. We also learned that 2019 Provincials would be held at City View Curling Club in Ottawa. The issue was that it would be the weekend following the ringing in of the New Year, which meant limited ice time between Christmas and New Year’s. My core temperature was not feeling the love after a while and the Provincials were soon upon us. We would end up in the semifinals after the round robin. We would come back from a 7-0 deficit in the fourth end winning by two for a berth in the finals. Unfortunately we would lose by two points in the finals.
Once I was back home my mind turned to a possible diving trip, but it was short lived as my skip Chris informed me we were invited to Nationals as a wild card team to represent Ontario. It would take place in Boucherville Quebec at the end of April. That would mean my mind was back to the task at hand and not swimming through the clear blue ocean. As January and February marched on, I stuck to my regimen but I could feel the resentment creeping in. I had come across a business card for Sarah Tengler of Impact Vacations and the ocean was calling. At the end of February I informed my team I was going to take a break for a week and Sarah and I decided a trip back to Cozumel was what I needed. I would jet off into the wild blue yonder on March 20. Until then I practiced, competed, practiced and competed.
I touched down at the Cozumel airport on the afternoon of the 20th. I would be returning to Hotel Cozumel as they had ten available accessible rooms. I also decided to use a different dive operator for a change of pace. Roberta, owner of Roberta’s Scuba Shack met me at the airport. She had experience with divers with disabilities and upon meeting her I was already happy with my decision. I would be meeting her at a marina not far from the hotel first thing the next morning. With the glorious warmth and sunshine I could feel the tension leaving my body. Settling into the hotel was like meeting an old friend. It is just the right size with amazing staff and my room would work out great.
I met Roberta the next morning and she introduced me to the captain, crew, Cesar the boat owner. I mingled with the fellow divers first as we made our way out to the first dive site. As our boat rolled over the waves I was mesmerized by the bands of bright neon blue amongst the many other shades of incredible blue water. Breathing in the saltwater air along with anticipation of the dive was filling my soul as we got ready for dive number one. We would dive on Columbia wall.
After the briefing I was transferred onto the swim platform. What I had noticed was that with all the curling I had done, my core stability seemed to be a lot stronger. Once in the ocean we descended into my happy place. Roberta and I needed a few minutes to work together as we got to know each other as dive partners below the surface. A synergy and mutual trust has to develop with your partner to have enjoyable experiences and as we went through our dive it was clear this would happen.
Cozumel is known for its currents and unpredictability. Walls present an issue as down currents can occur, so being aware of this is of utmost importance. People get lost in the kaleidoscope of colours and activity surrounding them so vigilance is required at all times.
The wall was beautiful as we leveled off at 80 ft. and I took in its entire splendor. It is truly hard to describe just how small and vulnerable you feel as your back is facing the wide open ocean. With more than 100 ft. of visibility the sun shines through onto the reef at a depth of 80 ft. We surfaced with high fives and Roberta was happy to be my partner.
I was struck by the number species of fish and corals I saw throughout the reef system. The ocean is a living, breathing world unto itself and I am always humbled by its enormity. Roberta gave me a lift back to the hotel and we got to know each other better. I enjoyed dinner and wheeled myself into Cozumel to listen to the ocean and watch the sun sink into the horizon. That would become my ritual each evening along with my ride back after our dives. A couple of days prior to my departure home I was lost in the sound of the waves in town when a woman approached me. Maria did not speak much English but we struck up a friendship that we continue to this day.
Over the week I would have 12 dives with every one of them as special as the last. My laundry list of highlights included Palancar Caves which is a mind boggling set of massive coral heads, tunnels and drop offs along with San Francesco wall and Santa Rosa wall to name a few. Some had pretty strong currents to contend with but you truly know the feeling of being in space as you fly over the marine world below and let the ocean be your guide.
Some of the special moments I experienced were seeing at least 25 conchs in the white sand between a set of coral heads. A baby trunkfish the size of a peanut, black with bright orange spots, dragon seahorse, a male jawfish holding its unhatched eggs in its mouth, peacock flounder, spotted scorpion fish, a family of arrow crabs occupying a tube sponge, 25-30 spiny lobsters under a coral overhang, a large nurse shark resting in a small cave, and an up close and personal encounter with a hawksbill turtle feeding on coral. I would also be swimming through schools of bar jacks coming to say hi. I saw a couple of southern stingrays along with queen and spotlight parrotfish. I saw a few puffer fish along with green and spotted moray eels. Queen angelfish were very abundant throughout the reefs along with their cousin’s gray and French angels. I was also struck by the number of nurseries hidden among the corals. It was clear that this whole coast was thriving. I had a couple of sightings of a favourite of mine, a small black damselfish with neon blue spots so bright that it seemed it had swallowed a light bulb, and large schools of tomtate moving with the surge in a sheltered alcove of coral. Trunkfish, species of butterfly fish, barracuda, brightly colored honeycomb cowfish, scrawled filefish. The list is never-ending and each dive was a wonder to behold.
On the last evening I took Roberta out to dinner at Sal De Mar to thank her for her diving hospitality. It was the house of the owner’s grandparent’s with amazing décor and ambiance. We sat in an open area were the back wall had been partially removed. The food was incredible and I had black pasta which was delicious. We had a great evening reminiscing about the incredible world very few get to see and the sense of community with our fellow divers on board. I would highly recommend Cozumel for those yet to visit. For you divers it is one of the best reef systems in the world.
I arrived home the following Wednesday and was back on the practice ice the next day. My mind and soul had been cleansed by my week in paradise above and below the waterline. I was now ready to get back to business and prepare to represent Ontario in my second consecutive year at the National Wheelchair Curling Championships.
If you are interested in arranging your own great dive in paradise, please contact Sarah or Roberta. I promise you will not be disappointed!
Sarah Tengler • Impact Vacations
(T) 905-551-1545 or 1-855-823-4567
Roberta • Roberta’s Scuba Shack